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  • yobaba

    Interesting concept, but where is the electricity coming from that these monsters are sucking up while they are in port? Hopefully there is an alternate energy source designed specifically for such a set-up, like solar or wind on or near the site that would be devoted to providing power to these ships, whether their cargo is containers or people. At the same time, why aren’t there working solar-panels on each and every ship on the Seven Seas?

  • Gavin Hudson

    Hi Yobaba,

    I did about 2 hours of digging to answer your question, and here is what I came up with. First of all, I totally agree with you. I hope that zero emission electricity generation (biomass, wind, solar, etc.) becomes the norm. From my research, I found that although there have been notable improvements in shipping engines and regulations, they still emit a lot, especially since we’re talking about some of the most powerful engines in the world. ( I’ll use nitrogen oxide as an example since that’s what I was able to find the most information on.

    According to Dieselnet, the US caps marine diesel engines emissions at between 14.4 and 7.7 grams of Nitrogen Oxide per kilowatt hour (g/kwh of NOx), depending on engine type. ( Let’s compare that to coal, assuming that coal power plants emit the most polluting source of energy per kwh of electricity. Coal power plants around the world without state of the art emission reduction technologies emit 13-17 g/kwh of NOx on average, according to the World Bank. ($FILE/thermnew_PPAH.pdf) So, if all the world’s electricity came from coal, especially “clean(er)” coal, it would still arguably be better for ships with huge engines to plug into the grid in terms of NOx emissions.

    However, to get back to your original question, the Earth Policy Institute calculates ( that only about 42% of electricity in the grid comes from coal. They estimate that 33% comes from zero emissions sources, with the remainder coming from oil and gas. So, in short, even though electricity from the grid’s not yet perfect it’s still an improvement on electricity from marine diesel engines. :)

  • Gavin Hudson

    I also received another very good question on a separate site, asking how 20 metric tons of fuel could produce 60 metric tons of CO2. The answer is pure chemistry, which–after the long answer above–I’ll gloss over. Basically, when you burn fossil fuel (carbon and hydrogen), you get CO2 (carbon and oxygen). Oxygen is pulled from the air and binds to the carbon. Oxygen is heavier than hydrogen, so that’s where you get the extra weight.

  • Greg

    As an update to this particular blog post, ABB has announced today that it is to build complete electrical onshore infrastructure at the port in Ystad, in southern Sweden. As previously mentioned, this shore-to-ship power solution will enable vessels docked in the port to draw all the electricity needed for operating their onboard systems, including ventilation and cooling, from the local power network.

    *Full disclosure: Like Gavin, I also work for ABB